Bigotry is just plain hard to defend
Since the Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this week featured some of the worst arguments ever made in front of the highest court in the land, Republicans have been retreating from their strict position that the federal government should ban same-sex marriage like it’s Mitt Romney the day after he lost.
I’m not confident that the Supreme Court will make the kind of Loving v. Virginia decision this nation deserves, but I do know this: smarter Republicans have recognized that insisting that the federal government impose bigotry based entirely on a dated religious view isn’t working for them.
Republican consultant Rick Wilson tried to translate this into English for his fellow GOPs:
I don’t want gay Americans to feel like my party is relentlessly hostile and unwelcoming. Barack Obama kicked our ass down the street twice by growing the Democrat coalition. It’s a zero-sum game, and every gain for them is a loss for us. It’s a cliché, but you grow by addition, always and only.
As importantly, signifiers matter. Voters we need – Republican leaners in affluent suburbs, for instance – are with us on a range of issues, but against us on tone and presentation.
I’d disagree with him on the issues but “tone and presentation” are definitely the GOP’s biggest problems. But the paths Republicans are taking to retreat from this mess they’ve gotten themselves into on equal marriage are barely improvements when it comes to communicating a positive, convincing message.
All of those GOPs in retreat pretty much agree that DOMA needs to go. It’s an ugly example of prejudice being written into law by a right that believed it and a left desperately trying to avoid a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The question is what to do next. Republicans committed to idea that bigotry against gay couples should still be allowed — including Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — want the “states to decide.” Discrimination should be left to the states — because they’re so good at it!
Libertarianish folk — like Rand Paul and Justin Amash — sense the inherent problem in arguing the government should be allowed to discriminate. So they argue “get the government out of marriage.” Let religions decide marriage and the state can enforce a civil union contract between any two non-related adults.
This is an idea that has occurred to many of us and has the benefit of feeling logical. The problem is that it is never going to happen. Are the Santorum-like folks who still want prayer in school ever going to let government out of marriage? You’d need a whole new Republican Party. Thus this is just another way to deny gay couples from heterosexuals casually enjoy.
Republicans are in an old-fashioned civil rights mess that they won’t be able to swing to their favor as they did with “The Southern Strategy.” Gay Americans aren’t “the other” sucking off your dime — they’re friends, they’re family. And they’re out and they’re never going back in the closet, which leads us to the core of this issue.
Marriage equality reveals the GOP’s hypocrisy when it comes to their key issue “big government.” It shows they’re fans of what they claim to hate when it comes to imposing their religious bigotry on others. And that’s a dangerous signifier.
There’s one simple solution to this: Gay couples should be allowed to be married.
The Supreme Court could do that with one decision but likely won’t. And that’s bad news for the GOP. Because now this issue — which is so clear to the groups, as Greg Sargent points out, Republicans need the most — is going to be decided by the voters, over and over until we get it right.
And we will. Because there’s no other option.
Photo credit: joseanavas